Tokamachi akashi chijimi textiles Photo:Niigata Prefecture

Tokamachi akashi chijimi textiles Tokamachi akashi chijimi

Fine woven patterns and a nice texture
as detailed as the wings of a cicada


What is Tokamachi akashi chijimi textiles ?

Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi is a textile produced in the area surrounding Tokamachi City in Niigata Prefecture. This is a very delicate and thin textile that requires the high-level techniques and precision of experienced craftsmen. An experimental textile based on the summer textile of Nishijin in Kyoto was produced at the end of the 19th century, and the production and sales of the textile started from the mid-Meiji period (1868 – 1912). The characteristics of Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi are the elaborately woven beautiful patterns and the refreshing texture created by the hard-twisted highest quality weft threads. Silkworm cocoons that are used as raw material for the threads sometimes contain soiling or impurities at the beginning or end of the thread. These damaged threads cannot be used as the soiling becomes visible when they are twisted hard. Therefore, Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi uses only the center part of the threads where there are less or no impurities. The skilled craftsmen weave delicately patterned threads carefully and precisely. A roll of textile that has a delicate texture is produced in this way.


It is assumed that the silk-reeling industry had started in the area surrounding Tokamachi City in Niigata Prefecture a long time ago, as a spindle base, which is a tool to twist the threads, was found in the Babanoue ruins (dated approx. 1500 years ago). Echigo Chijimi produced in this region was chosen for the warriors' ceremonial robes in the Edo period (1603 – 1868). At the beginning of the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), textile production became a side business for farmers during their off-season. After that, a new product was developed based on the summer textile brought back from Nishijin in Kyoto. The textile called Tokamachi Sukiya already existed, and it became the base for Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi. They started to develop a technique to produce hard-twisted weft threads around the same time. Then, using the new technique, they succeeded in making Sukiya Chirimen, a thin silk crepe material, and this put the production of Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi fully in progress. They started selling the product in markets in the mid-Meiji period and the textile became a special product of the region. Tokamachi Akashi Chijimi and Tokamachi Kasuri were both designated as traditional national crafts in 1982.

General Production Process

  1. 1. Design (designing splash patterns and making the rulers) Kasuri patterns for the textiles are designed including the composition and coloring in this process. The Kasuri rulers are also made in this process. A sample design or the idea for the design is marked on graph paper and the Kasuri design is made once the positions of the patterns have been decided. The work instructions for the following processes are made based on the positions of the patterns decided in this process. When the drawing is completed, Kasuri patterns are divided into the warp Kasuri and the weft Kasuri and the rulers are made accordingly.
  2. 2. Twisting threads Raw silk or dupion silk is aligned using a doubling machine and several threads are gathered together to make the appropriate thickness. Then the threads are twisted using a twisting machine to give the threads the necessary strength.
  3. 3. Hand stretching The threads are wound around bobbins or frames using a winding machine that winds threads repeatedly. After that, the warp and the weft threads are each sorted into the necessary length and number of threads based on the Kasuri design that was planned in the beginning.
  4. 4. Marking with ink and tying The warp and the weft threads are set on a pulling stand or stretch frame separately and the pattern is marked on the threads with ink. The kasuri rulers have a mark at both ends which shows the width of the textile, and the positions of the kasuri patterns are marked on the threads with ink using this ruler. When marking of the warp and the weft threads is finished, the marked places are tied tightly with cotton threads or flat rubber bands to prevent the tied parts from being dyed.
  5. 5. Rubbing dye into threads Dye is rubbed into the marked places thoroughly using a spatula for rubbing. Then the threads are gathered and wound into a skein. The threads are then kneaded in dye repeatedly together with the threads for the base fabric that don't have kasuri patterns. After that, the dyed threads are steamed at 100℃ to settle the color.
  6. 6. Starching and over-twining The starched weft threads are hard-twisted using a twisting machine called Hacho Nenshiki. These weft threads are called Akashi yoko and are essential to producing shibo, the distinctive crepe texture of Akashi Chijimi. The process of using the Hacho Nenshiki is specifically designated to produce Akashi Chijimi.
  7. 7. Preparation for weaving and actual weaving First of all, the flat rubber bands and and tied cotton threads are removed from the warp threads. They are loosened and are wound around part of the loom with the base threads while adjusting the patterns. The threads are sorted carefully along with the design and approximately 1200 threads are each put through the eyes of the heddle of the loom. Then, two threads are put through the dents of the reed. The weft threads are stretched and loosened after the flat rubber bands are removed and are then wound around a frame. Preparations are finished after the weft threads are wound around wooden bobbins for weaving. The weaver adjusts the positions of the kasuri patterns with both hands whilst weaving.
  8. 8. Finishing The finished roll of textile is inspected and corrections are made if there is any soiling or uneven width in the weave.

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